What Is A Pathologic Spinal Fracture?

Category: Spinal Cord Injury | Author: Stefano Sinicropi

Psoriatic Arthritis of the Spine

Spinal vertebrae can fracture for a number of different reasons. If you’re involved in a car accident or you fall off a ladder, acute trauma may be the root cause of your spinal fracture. However, if more innocuous actions lead to the development of a fracture, it may have a pathological reason behind it. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at pathologic spinal fractures, and we explain how to best treat them.

Pathologic Spinal Fractures

To get a better understanding of what we mean when we say pathologic spinal fracture, let’s break down the phrase. Pathologic means to be related with a pathology, or disease, and fracture means that there is a break in the bone. In other words, your spinal fracture occurred in part because of an underlying health condition.

But what kind of health conditions could contribute to a pathological spinal fracture? The two most common underlying conditions that contribute to pathological spinal fractures are tumors and osteoporosis. In rarer cases, pathologic fractures can be caused by the presence of an infection and bone-weakening conditions like osteomalacia and Paget’s disease.

Because these pathologic conditions mean that spinal vertebrae may fracture without significant trauma, it’s important to know the symptoms of a spinal fracture. Symptoms include regionalized back pain, pain in the arms and legs, numbness and muscle weakness in the extremities.

Diagnosing And Treating Pathological Spinal Fractures

Spinal fractures are easy enough to diagnose with x-rays and a comprehensive physical exam, but understanding the pathology behind it will be a little more difficult. Additional imaging or blood tests may be conducted to look for the presence of a tumor or infection, and your doctor will test to see if a bone-weakening condition is present. Once the pathology is understood, treatment will focus on both the fracture and the underlying cause.

The good news is that most vertebral fractures heal just fine without surgery, so rest, painkillers, activity restriction and some physical therapy will likely be in your future. As for the underlying cause, treatment will vary. For example, if a tumor is present, surgical removal and stabilization of the spinal column may be ordered. For patients with osteoporosis or other bone-weakening conditions, dietary improvements and Vitamin D supplements may be able to help strengthen bones and prevent the likelihood of a similar fracture in the future. If an infection played a role in the fracture, antibiotics and other medications can help rid your body of its presence.

When it comes to pathological fractures, it’s important to treat both the fracture and the root cause to ensure patients don’t deal with lingering symptoms or a recurrence. Dr. Sinicropi and his team have a wealth of experience dealing with complex pathologic fractures and getting patients the comprehensive treatment they deserve. For more information, or to set up an appointment to get a diagnosis for your back troubles, reach out to his office today at (651) 430-3800.

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